I have to confess, dear congregation, that one of my first reactions to the texts for this week was a very human one: “Ah, the ten commandments… hmmm… rules… yaaaay.” All of you are probably much better Christians than me and didn’t have that kind of reaction, haha. But still, there is definitely something about reading the commandments that makes us brace ourselves to be reprimanded. We anticipate all those finger-wagging thou-shalt-nots almost as a kind of public scolding. And I mean, come on, we’re three weeks into Lent – we’ve already admitted that we are dust and we’ve heard the call to rend our hearts and to repent of our wicked ways and to return to God with fasting and weeping and mourning. At this point, reading the ten commandments almost seems like the lectionary is just rubbing our noses in how much we have fallen short. Continue reading
Today, we mark the beginning of Lent, the long, slow march toward Christ’s death on the cross. As I’ve been reflecting on these texts once again this week, I’ve found myself noticing just how many words we encounter this time of year that start with “re-”: repentance, regret, reconciliation, remission, return. Among these words, one word in particular grabbed my attention: the word “remorse.” When I read the word in Spanish – remordimiento – it occurred to me that the literal definition of “remorse” is actually “to bite again.” As it turns out, much like my cat, Lent is a season that bites. Continue reading
“Domingo de Ceniza” / “Ash Sunday”
5 Marzo, 2017 / March 5, 2017
First Lutheran Church of Logan Square
Hoy, empezamos el tiempo de la Cuaresma por observar el Miércoles de Ceniza – o en este caso, el Domingo de Ceniza. La Cuaresma es un tiempo de arrepentimiento, en que renovamos nuestra devoción a la vida de fe. Pero para muchas personas, este tiempo se ha convertido en un tiempo de abnegación solamente. Ha vuelto a ser un tiempo de castigarnos a nosotros mismos y de sentirnos culpables por fallar en vivir vidas perfectas. Igual que los “hipócritas” en nuestro evangelio para hoy, muchos de nosotros pasamos la Cuaresma orando y ayunando – tal vez renunciamos al azúcar o chocolate o a otras cosas que nos gustan. Pero a veces puede ser fácil perder la razón *porque* hacemos estas cosas.
Tal vez ustedes no. Pero yo sé que para mi, ha sido difícil. Por muchos años, mi práctica cuaresmal ha sido renunciar algún tipo de comida. He renunciado al azúcar y al soda y carbohídratos. El año pasado, para la Cuaresma, comí sólo verduras crudas y nada más. Fue muy poco saludable. Y siendo honesta, lo que quería hacer en realidad era continuar mi resolución del Año Nuevo de bajar de peso.
Aunque intentaba convencerme a mi misma que lo hacía para Dios, la verdad es que lo hacía para mi y para quedar bien con los demás. Como los hipócritas en nuestro texto, me preocupaba más por lo que pensaban los demás que por lo que pensaba Dios. Para mi, la Cuaresma no era un tiempo de arrepentirme y volver a Dios, sino un tiempo de castigarme. Continue reading
(Early) Sermon for Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2017
“Sermon Design and Delivery” course
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look gloomy, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, annoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Do not be like the hypocrites,” Jesus warns us in our gospel text for today. Unfortunately, it seems like there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around these days – especially if you’re attuned to what’s happening in our country’s political discourse. Politicians and public figures claim to be pro-life, while adamantly supporting the death penalty and opposing gun regulation, despite tens of thousands of gun-related deaths annually. Others claim to be advocates for a quality public education system while proposing plans to dismantle the entire Department of Education. Still others are doing everything in their power to slam the door on refugees and other immigrants seeking safety and opportunity, while ignoring their own families’ personal – and recent – histories of immigration. Hypocrisy is the bread and butter of our world. Continue reading
This semester at seminary, I’ve been taking a preaching class, and last week, one of my classmates – Denise – preached a really awesome sermon about this evening’s gospel text. She focused on Jesus’ act of washing his disciples’ feet, but what really stuck with me about Denise’s sermon was that she didn’t just preach it; she actually took off her robe, poured water into a basin, and made it very clear that she had every intention of actually washing our feet.
That kind of freaked me out a little bit. I mean, baring your feet and letting someone else touch them is awkward under the best of circumstances – but in my case, I actually have a skin infection on both of my feet and one of my toenails that’s kind of embarrassing and gross (in fact, it’s actually really hard to even admit it here), so I was mortified by the idea of taking off my shoes and socks and showing my gross feet to everyone.
In our gospel story, the disciples – especially Simon Peter – were also a little put off by Jesus’ act of footwashing. Obviously, we don’t know whether any of them suffered from any sort of skin infection, but after roaming around the streets of Jerusalem and the Judean countryside in sandals, it’s a pretty safe bet that their feet didn’t exactly smell like roses. It’s understandable when Peter declares to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Continue reading
Jesús está predicando en Galilea, sanando a la gente, y expulsando demonios cuando los fariseos se acercan a él. Le amenazan a Jesús, diciéndole que Herodes quiere matarle, y le mandan que huya de la región. Pero, increíblemente, Jesús no les hace caso. De hecho, llama a Herodes un zorro y hasta sarcásticamente sugiere que Herodes lo busque en tres días para matarlo a Jesús en Jerusalén. Continue reading
Today, we continue our journey through the forty days of Lent. And we walk alongside Jesus, as he makes his way inevitably toward Jerusalem.
In our gospel reading for today, Jesus is totally focused on his goal. The pharisees come to him with death threats from Herod, but Jesus brushes them off. In fact, this is a classic example of what I like to think of as “snarky Jesus.” Jesus calls Herod a “fox” and responds to his threat by basically saying, “Look Herod, I don’t have time for you right now. I’ve got work to do. But hey, I’ve got an opening in three days, so if you still want to kill me, you can come on down to Jerusalem and do it then – because we all know that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem, amirite?” Jesus basically dismisses Herod and the pharisees because he is so focused on reaching Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem is the stage on which the grand drama of the passion narrative will unfold. Continue reading